Akiko is from Osaka (duh) and Mei likely is too, so how about a minific of them reminiscing about the city and possibly having met each other before?
Personally I don’t subscribe to the Mei is Osakan theory but Mei and Akiko knowing each other pre Rider shenanigans... is an intriguing concept... so I’m going with it~
This has just descended to pure chaos lmao
“...What the fuck?” Shoutaro said for all the flabbergasted men present, as they watched the two women squeal and embrace each other like old friends.
“Oh my gosh, look at you! You’re all grown up!” Akiko gushed. “How long ago was it when you moved away from Osaka?”
“I was eleven, Akiko-san, so it’s been thirteen years. I didn’t know you moved here too!”
“I actually live in Fuuto, but yeah, I moved there a little after you and your family did-”
“Whoa, can we back up here for a sec?” Shoutaro interrupted the two women, whose pitch was getting higher and higher as they talked. “How the heck do you two know each other?”
“Oh! I was originally from Osaka, but like I said, I moved to Tokyo when I was eleven.” Mei explained. “Akiko-san and her mom lived next door to my family. She even used to babysit me when I was little!”
“Oh...” Touma muttered, looking at his senpai. “So you’re both from Osaka...”
“Huh? What’s the problem with that, ahou?!” Akiko spat at Touma, slipping into Kansai-dialect with the insult.
“N-Nothing! It’s just that you’re both...” The novelist looked pleadingly at the other swordsmen, begging for a rescue.
“What Touma means is that you’re both very passionate and energetic,” Rintaro said smoothly, with his most charming smile on his face.
Instantly the older of the two women calmed down, her ruffled feathers soothed. “Aw, Mei-chan! You got yourself a real catch here!” Akiko said approvingly. “He’s so adorable! I bet he’s a good boyfriend to you!”
Rintaro’s cheeks reddened as he looked away, adorably shy. Mei, slightly embarrassed, began to say, “Uh... Akiko-san...”
“Or maybe you’re dating this one? He’s the strong and silent type isn’t he? That’s pretty appealing...” She looked Kento up and down. “And he’s kinda hot, to be honest!”
Kento blushed deeply, and Akiko’s husband, Ryu, spat out his coffee in shock. “Ch-Chief!” he cried, nearly pouting.
“And this one...” Akiko turned her appraising eyes onto Touma. “Well... I guess he’s not so bad, if he’s an award winning novelist and all. Not bad on the eyes either.”
Touma made a face as if he didn’t know whether he was just complimented or insulted.“For the love of God, Akiko.” Shoutaro groaned, covering his face with his palm.
“Aki-chan,” Philip interrupted. “These four are all dating and fucking each other,” he said, utterly nonplussed by what he just revealed.
Akiko stared owlishly at Philip, opening and closing her mouth soundlessly. The quartet all started sputtering incoherently, while Shoutaro smacked Philip on the head. “Oi, you can’t just say things like that all of a sudden! Do you have no sense of delicacy?!”
“I see no point in beating around the bush with it,” Philip said in confusion. “It’s not like Fukamiya hasn’t been called out in the Rider chat by that swordsmith because he overheard them fu-”
“H-How do you even know that?!” Kento yelped, then covered his mouth as he went even redder, realizing that he just confirmed what Philip said.
“Wait, what do you mean- has Daishinji-san heard us?!” Mei exclaimed. “And you didn’t tell us he knew?!”
“I’m sorry!” Kento wailed, covering his face. “I just- it was so embarrassing-”
“Oh Christ- no wonder he couldn’t look me in the eye at training the other day...” groaned Touma.
“We must apologize to him soon... perhaps we can bring him some chocolate eclairs to make up for it...?”
“What... So you four are really...?!” Akiko shrieked, stopping them in their tracks.
“Yeah...” Mei nodded, suddenly looking bashful, as did the three other boys.
Akiko sighed deeply. “You have your work cut out for you, don’t you?”
“Yeah. You have to wrangle these idiots in a lot, don’t you?” She asked, gesturing to the three boys. “They do lots of stupid shit, don’t they?”
“...Yeah, I guess?” Touma, Kento and Rintaro simultaneously gave Mei wounded looks.
“Uh-oh... I don’t like where this is going...” Shoutaro muttered.
Akiko looped her arm around Mei’s, a sly smile on her face. “Then it’s a good thing that the girls and I were supposed to meet up tonight. I can introduce you... and we can teach you our ways.”
“Teach me... what?” Mei asked in confusion, as Akiko lead her away from the boys.
“Oh no...” Shoutaro paled.
“Not that... anything but that!” Philip exclaimed, looking panicked.
“Uh... should we be concerned?” Rintaro asked befuddlement, watching as his senior dropped his cup of coffee, the mug shattering on the floor.
“They’re going to teach her that. That technique.... the one that could send even Tsukasa to his knees...” Shoutaro whispered in horror, then looked at his three juniors mournfully. “You boys... better ready your souls.”
May I request ShoutarouxPhilip with ParadxEmu for 4, please? Thank you~!💖🎶✨
4. "What have you done?"
The crowd of fascinated onlookers means that Emu and Philip can't see much of what's going on, apart from Shoutaro's hat and the curly top of Parad's head. Despite that, though, and the noise level, they can still hear the clack of balls caroming off each other and the walls of the pool tables, following by the little thumps as they roll into pockets--one, two, three, four balls in, one right after the other. The people watching applaud politely, looking delighted. Some shuffling of feet, a long pause, and then, "Ok, seriously, W, you've gotta show me how you did that one."
"Would you please call me Shoutaro. But ok, sure, we've still got a few balls out, I'll set them back up."
Emu takes a sip of his beer and says, "I'm glad they're having fun."
Philip is drinking some sort of mixed juice concoction because he's concerned about impairing his cognitive functions, which according to Shoutaro's convenient Philip Translation Service means that he weighs about fifty kilos soaking wet and has no tolerance for alcohol. It does have a little paper umbrella in it, though. "Shoutaro has recently devoted a great deal of energy to practicing his trick shots, it's gratifying to see someone besides our niece and nephew getting excited about them."
Shoutaro's instructions aren't quite audible, just bits and pieces, "It's really about how you angle the cue--" getting swallowed in the crowd noise.
"Your niece and nephew?" Emu blinks. "I didn't think you had--Shoutaro's never mentioned having siblings."
"Yuji and Haruna, Narumi Akiko's children. Parad's met them. Akiko is our technical employer, Shoutaro had a...complicated friendship with her father. They're siblings in every useful sense of the term. And her husband is Accel, the other Rider in Fuuto."
"Right, I do remember Parad mentioning kids at your office when he came to chat with you before. It's nice that you guys are so close with Accel, too." Emu pauses, takes another sip. "Was he hard to get along with at first? There was so much friction with the other CR Riders when everything was going on, I always wonder how other groups get along."
"Oh yes, absolutely very difficult. He's an argumentative man. But we--"
From the direction of a pool table comes a loud thump and several clacking sounds, and then a pool ball, which sails over the heads of the crowd and which Emu only barely manages to catch in time. He nearly topples off his stool to do it, too, gripping the bar with his free hand in a desperate attempt to stay off the floor. The onlookers are making worried noises, and one of them says, "Do you need a doctor? There should be a first aid kit at the bar--"
Philip's staring wide-eyed in the direction of the pool table. Emu, regaining his balance with difficulty, freezes and nearly falls again. "Oh no, what have they done?"
Fortunately, after a moment there's more shuffling, and then Parad saying, cheerfully, "No, I'm fine, it's cool, that was on purpose. And awesome. M should have the eight ball."
The crowd parts, and Parad and Shoutaro look down the opened aisle to where Emu and Parad are sitting, Emu still hanging onto the bar, Philip's right hand white-knuckled on his drink. Parad has a red mark on his forehead, over which is floating what appears to be an emoji of a pair of crossed bandages. Shoutaro is looking a little wild-eyed as he says, "Ah...yes. Right. Emu, is that the eight ball?"
Emu looks at the pool ball in his hand in surprise. "Um. Yes."
"Then that was. That was a very impressive shot, Parad."
Philip squints at the eight ball, grip relaxing slightly on his drink. "Parad, did you carom this off your own head in order to pass it to Emu?"
"Yeah! Hurt a little more than I was expecting, but it worked out ok, right?"
"That's fascinating, how did you calculate the angle for it?"
The crowd disperses once the eight ball is returned to the pool table, especially as Parad and Philip have started discussing the math of pool trick shots instead of doing any. Shoutaro shoots Parad a look that seems simultaneously fond and exhausted before turning to Emu. "He really is like that all the time, isn't it? Do you play pool?"
"He really is. And I don't, would you teach me?" Emu grins at him. "Or do you need a drink first?"
"I'd love to, and yes, I do." Shoutaro sits down next to him. "Don't, uh, don't tell anyone this, but I think Parad might be better at that game than I am."
Ok, I understand. Then how about a continuing Shotaorou sleeping with cat idea. As Sento & Sougo calling the agency, Tsukasa & Daiki joined from out of nowhere. After brief photo taking (for blackmail material), Tsukasa dared Daiki to awake Shotaorou from hid sleep after Daiki calling other wuss for not brave enough to do so. When Daiki did so, Shotarou were furious with Daiki's interruption & ordered the cats that were sleeping with him to attack Daiki.
Oh, this one! You requested that one too!
Lol RIP Daiki’s gonna get what he deserves
“Well, that’s that, at least Philip isn’t worried anymore,” Sento muttered as he hung up.
“Uh, senpai, I think we may have another problem, though...”
“What do you mean by that, Sou- Oh, hell, what are those two fuckers doing here?”
Because right there, a few feet away from him were Kadoya Tsukasa and Kaito Daiki, the former holding up his camera and the latter clutching his stomach laughing at the sight of Shoutaro sleeping with a bunch of cats around him.
“Should we warn them? If they wake Shoutaro-san up...” Sougo said, then frowned. “Actually... can we not warn them? I want to see how this plays out...”
Sento gave Sougo an incredulous look. “Aren’t you the pink bastard’s apprentice?”
“What? What gave you that idea?” Sougo scoffed. “They’ve caused as much trouble for me as they have for anyone else. I want to see those two get their just desserts...”
“Alright, fair.” Sento nodded. “Let’s see what’ll happen...”
“What the fuck Tsukasa. I’m not gonna do that. That’s low, even for you.” Daiki stated with a frown.
“Oh c’mon, what’s the worse that could happen, some yelling? Surely you can handle that.” Tsukasa wheedled. “You’re such a wuss that you can’t handle one half-boiled fedora detective...”
Daiki’s brow twitched. “What did you just call me?”
“You heard me right the first time.” Tsukasa gave him a challenging look. “SO are you gonna prove me wrong, or...?”
Daiki sputtered. “Alright, you’re on, you pink fucker! I’ll show you who’s the wuss-”
“It’s magenta, how many times do I have to say that?!”
“Do I look like I give a fucking damn what color you think you are?”
“Can’t you two fuckers shut your fucking traps for one fucking day?”
Daiki and Tsukasa froze as they turned to see Shoutaro, very awake, and very angrily glaring at them, along with the dozen or so cats surrounding him.
“I really don’t have the patience or the energy to deal with you two right now,” Shoutaro stated, his voice cold as ice. “So I’m going to have my friends here deal with you two while I get some more shuteye.”
Shoutaro went back to his napping spot, putting his hat over his head, while the hissing felines advanced in on the chaotic duo, who backed away in fear. “Uh... nice kitties...?” Tsukasa tried to appease, hesitantly.
The cats simultaneously growled at them, and the pair let out terrified squeaks before turning tail and running, the cats giving chase to them.
“Oh... Well... If I didn’t think he was the Cat Whisperer before, I sure do now...” Sougo whispered in awe.
“Remind me not to piss him off when animals are around... he might just end up siccing my own pet on me too...”
I've just had a very strange thought, and I felt compelled to ask you a prompt about it.
See, Desast from Saber and Yurio from Yuri on Ice have the same VA (Uchiyama Kouki). He also voiced Philip/Kamen Rider W in the Memory of Heroez video game. So what would happen if, by some strange twist of destiny, these three happen to cross paths?
Oh my God... Are you for real? Okay, now I want to write this!!!
"Hey, Shotaro, did you know that the reigning champion of men's singles figure skating was fifteen when he won his first gold medal in seniors?" Philip asked, holding out his phone to his husband.
"I have no idea what half of that means, but..." Shotaro's voice trailed off as his eyes found the phone screen. Pictured there was a young blond man, shoulder-length hair tied back in a ponytail, who was staring arrogantly at the camera. He was leaning on a dark-haired guy who was half a head taller and was, at the moment of the photo being taken, kissing the side of the blond's head. "Okay, who is that?"
Philip smiled as he took his phone back. "Kentaro found this compilation of the top ice skaters in the world, and wouldn't you guess, but two of them live just ten kilometers from Fuuto!"
"No. Surely you've heard of Yuuri Katsuki and Victor Nikiforov?"
"The names do ring a bell." Shotaro frowned, trying to remember where he'd heard them. "Hang on, aren't they the first two officially married gay ice skaters?"
"Exactly!" Philip snapped his fingers. "Now, they'll be making an appearance at the NHK competition, because they're friends with the skater I just showed you and because they're training a junior skater competing there. I was thinking that maybe we could go and see them."
"What???" Shotaro's mouth dropped open. Then he thought better of himself. "Okay, but how do you expect to pay for it?"
Philip smirked, an expression that rarely showed up on his face and thus unnerved Shotaro every time. "You'll see."
Against all odds, Philip had managed to procure two two-day tickets for the NHK Trophy, so Shotaro had no choice but to admit defeat. They dropped Kentaro off at Shinnosuke's, apologizing for the inconvenience, and then drove off to Nagoya, where the competition was being held. They definitely were not expecting to be recognized.
"Hidari Shotaro-san?" A man in his thirties approached them cautiously, the expression in his eyes approaching awe.
"Yes?" Shotaro didn't mean to sound curt, but his surprise had overtaken him. "Yes, that's me."
"I live in Hasetsu. When I was fourteen, my poodle, Vicchan, disappeared, and you helped me find him. I remember you clearly." The man smiled a bit. "I never got the opportunity to say thank you."
"You're welcome-" Shotaro paused, not knowing the man's name.
"You can call me Yuuri. May I introduce my husband, Victor?" Yuuri patted the shoulder of the silver-blond man next to him before rising up to kiss his cheek, only to be startled away by Philip squealing.
"Yuuri Katsuki and Victor Nikiforov??? I can't believe it! It's you two!" Philip grinned, trying to contain his excitement.
"That would be us." Victor smiled, then glanced at his watch. "Oh, Yuuri, we're supposed to head in. Didn't Yurio want to meet us before he had to warm up?"
"Damn, that's right! I'm sorry, we have to go find our friends." Yuuri dragged Victor off before anybody could say a word.
Shotaro and Philip were left there, speechless. Then they both started talking at once.
"You know Yuuri Katsuki?"
"I know Japan's former leading ice skater?"
"When did that happen?"
"I don't know!"
This continued until they had to go in to get their seats. Then they shut up, watching as the skaters warmed up on the rink.
"Isn't that the guy you showed me?" Shotaro pointed out a blond on the ice, his sleek hair combed into an elaborate hairdo. He had left a red, white and blue striped jacket on the wall of the rink, and was now skating around in a red-orange outfit.
"I think so. I forgot his name, though, so I guess we'll have to find that out later."
All the skaters left the ice except the blond, who skated over to the wall to grab a drink. "First on the ice: Yuri Plisetsky, of Russia."
"I bet you ten thousand yen that that's the Yurio Victor Nikiforov mentioned," Shotaro whispered as Yuri skated out to the middle of the rink and struck a pose. The music started up just as Philip answered, a rushing, rising piece that reminded both of them of flames, so Shotaro couldn't hear him, though he had a feeling that the bet had not been taken.
Both of them were entranced by the skating, so when the music ended, they both felt like it had been far too short. But, as Philip pointed out, "Today is the day of the short programs. The free skates are tomorrow."
Just as Yuri stepped off the ice, screams erupted from the rinkside as a black figure jumped down from somewhere. It was not human by any means.
"Crap!" Shotaro cursed his bad luck as he and Philip scrambled through the screaming crowds to get to an aisle, any aisle, where they'd have a chance to transform.
Kamen Rider W, now transformed, floated down in front of the monster. Its features were twisted, red and black, and it was holding a sword to Yuri Plisetsky's throat. "Leave. Him. Alone."
"Oh? And who's going to stop me? You?" The monster's voice was eerily calm and snarky, and apparently Yuri didn't like it, as he started screaming obscenities in Russian. Just a few meters away, Victor was apparently translating for Yuuri, because both of them looked about as freaked out as the dark-haired guy next to them.
"Yes, I am. Now, count up your sins!"
"Desast!" someone yelled from behind W, and they whirled around to see a very familiar dragon-themed Rider. "Hang on, you guys are also here?"
"Yeah, we were watching the ice skating," Philip replied in Shotaro's place, wondering how Touma Kamiyama had known to come here. "Now, we should probably get that guy away from Desast."
"On it!" Touma tackled Desast away, and W held out a hand to Yuri.
"Are you okay there?" Philip asked in slow, careful English.
"No, not okay, why would you think that?" Yuri snapped in Russian-accented English that was still clearly legible. That voice made Shotaro freeze up.
"Uh, that's weird... You sound like him," Shotaro blurted out before he could think about what he was saying.
Yuri rolled his eyes. "Yeah, duh, that's why he targeted me. He said that he was looking for a human disguise, and that because I had a similar voice to his, nobody would suspect him. Not that that would work, given that that mudak attacked me in the middle of the khrenoten' competition."
"Well, you should go find out your score. We'll deal with the monster." W ran off, leaving a very confused Yuri Plisetsky behind. One of the figure's voices also sounded remarkably similar to his.
After chasing away Desast and watching what they hadn't missed of the rest of the short programs, Shotaro and Philip met up with Victor, Yuuri, Yuri and the dark-haired guy, a retired skater himself, and Yuri's boyfriend, by the name Otabek Altyn. The moment he spotted them, Yuuri bombarded Shotaro with questions.
"What the hell was that? Who were those? Why did that monster attack Yurio? Is it going to attack again?" Yuuri paused, breathless, and Philip took the opportunity to answer the questions.
"That was a monster attack. The two figures in suits were Kamen Riders, defenders of justice. As for why the monster attacked Plisetsky-san, and whether it will attack again, I simply don't know."
Yuri raised an eyebrow, but didn't question it. The young man's voice also sounded similar to his own, but the idea that he was one of the voices of the Kamen Rider who'd saved him? No way. He said something to Victor and Otabek in Russian, smiling slightly at the three Japanese men, who shrugged in confusion.
"Well, we'll be here tomorrow to watch the free skate. Which place did Plisetsky-san get?" Philip asked Yuuri, smiling to learn that the blond Russian skater was in first place.
"You flatter me." Yuri slapped Yuuri's hand away as the latter tried to give him a slap on the back, his dry, acidic tone reminding all those present of the monster.
"See you tomorrow!" Victor called as Philip and Shotaro walked off to their car, wide-eyed with joy. Victor Nikiforov, who still held several records around the globe and was currently one of the most elite skating coaches in the world, was looking forward to see them again. How awesome was that?
Hi! I’d like to request #17, with Philip and Chase (and bonus Shoutarou with another Drive character, if you like). I just have this need for Philip to interact with all my favorite characters, and your W crossovers are delightful. ^_^
17. “Is there anything I can do to help?”
Really, Shoutaro thinks, it shows a lot of restraint from Philip that he managed to wait a full week after discovering that Roidmudes were back in the world before he insisted on meeting one. Not that he’s unrestrained, of course. In fact, he’s gotten a lot better over the years about not overwhelming people with his academic enthusiasm. But there’s academic enthusiasm, and then there’s his increasing interest in the various unusual friends their junior Riders have picked up. He’d been practically vibrating with excitement since he first heard that Dr. Sawagami had run successful preliminary trials in her project to bring back the Roidmudes.
Of course, Philip could ask to speak with one or more Roidmudes all he liked, it had taken some time to arrange it. They’d had to talk to Terui, and he’d called Drive, and Drive had spoken to the four now-living Roidmudes, and then it had still taken two more months after that before anything could be scheduled just due to the tremendous problems Drive’s friends were having getting the Roidmudes legal status.
Now, though, the day's come, and Philip is enthusiastically shaking the hand of a man so color-coordinated that he could put Terui to shame and saying, "It's a absolute pleasure to meet you, Mr. Chase, thank you for coming, I appreciate it. Would you like coffee? I don’t know if you eat.”
Chase stares at him for only a very brief moment before saying, “Thank you, I do not drink coffee.”
Next to Chase--towering over him, in fact over all of them--is a man in a red coat with a thoughtful look on his face, and Shoutaro has to think for a moment before he recalls the last few messages he’d gotten. “And you’re...Heart, right? I’m Hidari Shoutaro, and this is Philip.”
Philip blinks. “This isn’t Mach? I thought Shijima Gou would be accompanying Chase to Fuuto. Shoutaro, I’m sorry, did I forget to introduce you?”
“It’s all right, partner, you were pretty excited. No, you remember the email, Gou was tied up with something last-minute.”
“By which he means he forgot that Professor Harley was going to be in Japan and expecting to see him.” Heart smiles, although he’s watching Philip with something that might be suspicion. “So I volunteered to come along, I’m always interested in making new friends.”
Chase glances at him. “You are overprotective.”
Heart makes a hm noise that doesn’t sound entirely like disagreement.
“Heart, Heart...” Philip’s eyes light up. “Yes, you’re also a Roidmude! Terui had said you weren’t interested in being interviewed, I don’t suppose you’ve had a change of heart? Forgive me, that wasn’t intended to be a play on words.”
Heart wavers for a moment, and Shoutaro can’t quite figure out whether it’s due to shyness or actual discomfort, so it’s probably fortunate that Chase is the one who answers. “Heart is not comfortable with discussing the past.”
“Ah. Yes, I entirely understand. Would you like coffee?”
“Now who’s overprotective?” But Heart relaxes visibly. “Yes, coffee would be wonderful, thank you.”
"Terui Ryuu said you and the other Roidmudes were having difficulties with your legal status, do you mind if I ask what they were? I know there are existing procedures for establishing the legal identities of non-humans, it's been done for two Bugsters in Seito. Well, three. Two and a half? Dr. Kujou is a complication."
Philip, Chase finds, is refreshingly blunt. He doesn't talk around issues the way many humans do, he cuts directly to the point, and moreover he seems pleased when Chase does the same. "There was an attempt to declare the Roidmudes property of the Japanese government."
"Oh.” Philip blinks several times, rapidly. “That's offensive, I imagine you all objected strenuously."
"Yes." Chase takes a sip of his tea. "And then once it was conclusively determined that we were people, there was the question of criminal charges."
"Really? Against you?"
"Against all of us. Heart, primarily. Brain and Medic were considered accomplices."
"I imagine your being a Kamen Rider helped with your case?"
"To an extent. I am not considered a threat. As it stands, we are no longer capable of causing gravity surges or otherwise wielding serious destructive force, and are under intermittent observation. The current legal debate centers around whether a Roidmude can be considered to have experienced mental duress."
“Hm. Really? Compelling. I wouldn’t think that was a debate at all.”
Chase considers this carefully before replying. “Why would you say that?”
“If Roidmudes are people, which they certainly are, then they can of course experience mental duress, or indeed any form of psychological distress.” Philip stares into space, hands wrapped around his coffee cup. “Unfortunately I’ve found that one of the hallmarks of personhood is a capacity for acute suffering. A being self-aware enough to love must also be self-aware enough to fear losing that which they love, and that fear can naturally be leaned upon by the unethical to coerce.” More staring into space. “Or simply to terrorize. It’s even more unfortunate when one realizes that unethical people of that type will likely always exist.”
“I...had not considered this previously.” Chase frowns, slowly. He’s experiencing an unfamiliar emotion--not that there are many emotions truly familiar to him, but this one contains elements of both surprise and happiness, and he is not clear on how one might express it.
He likes Philip, he realizes. He would like to be friends with Philip. Perhaps this is how Heart feels all the time.
“If this is the case, then in your determination, do Roidmudes have souls? I am not clear on what a soul is meant to be, but it has been the subject of discussion.”
Philip actually laughs. “The nature of the soul is one of the few topics on which I’m not the man to ask, for that you might want to talk to Ghost. In fact, I’m sure he’d be happy to discuss it with you. But in my limited experience with the subject--yes, I would think that Roidmudes have souls.” He takes a long drink of coffee. “Please excuse me if this is an indelicate question, I’ve been trying not to ask these things so abruptly lately, but my research indicated that Roidmudes have a more robotic base form onto which your human guises are layered, may I see it?”
They’re at the Windscale boutique getting Heart a suit.
They’d been discussing the Agency, and Heart mentioned having been a detective very briefly and seemed interested in the work, and this had led very naturally to talking about the boss, and from there to what Shoutaro had learned from him. Including, crucially, manner of dress, a topic that Heart seems fascinated by.
“I’d thought you could just sort of...shapeshift your clothing,” Shoutaro says. “At least, Bugsters do that, and Philip had mentioned that you do something similar.”
“Well, I can.” Heart plucks at the furred cuff of his coat. “But Tomari Kiriko’s suggested that I might adjust better to living among humans if I try to pick up some of their habits, little ones, and I like clothing.” A smile flashes across his face. “Mostly I’ve been borrowing things from Tomari Shinnosuke. He’s indicated that he’d like me to stop, though, because apparently he’s tired of having to come find me if he’s missing something he wants.”
“That’s Drive and his wife, right? We’ve never actually properly met, it’s sort of an oversight on Philip’s and my part.” Shoutaro frowns. “Do you live with him?”
Another flash of smile. “For the moment, yes. I was...revived...several months before the other Roidmudes, and they offered to let me stay with them. Mostly I watch Eiji for them and help Kiriko with housework. I’m learning how to cook. Brain and Medic are staying with other friends of Tomari Shinnosuke’s until the authorities can stop arguing about us and let us find a place of our own.”
“Well...” Shoutaro squints up at him for a moment, trying not to resent the man for being taller than him. “What kind of clothing do you like? I’m not exactly an expert on men’s fashion, but I like to think I know a little bit about it.”
This time it’s not a flash, the smile stays as Heart says, “Well, I have to say, the suits that Tomari Shinnosuke and his colleagues wear aren’t very interesting, but I do like your outfit quite a lot, it’s very sharp.”
So now Heart is trying on hats, and the Windscale salesgirls are losing their minds over how handsome he is. Normally Shoutaro would be a little jealous, they’re so used to him at this point that nothing about him is interesting to them, but he can’t quite bring himself to be. Not when Heart looks so pleased to be doing such an ordinary thing. Anyway, he’s letting Shoutaro pick everything out, and it’s so rare for someone else to be this trusting of Shoutaro’s fashion sense.
He also looks very good in a three-piece suit. But then, Shoutaro thinks, straightening his waistcoat, doesn’t everyone?
“What do you think of this one, my friend?”
Shoutaro looks at the latest hat Heart’s picked out and says, after a moment’s thought, “I think you look like a real man.”
Heart pauses. “Is that a good thing in this context?”
“Yes. The best thing I can think of, really. I mean, not that it’s bad to be a woman, but--listen, what I mean is, you look good, it suits you. Do you, uh, do you like to read at all?”
“Yes, sometimes, why?”
“We’re going to a bookstore after this, there are a couple of authors I think you’d enjoy.”
“Thank you for allowing me to examine you,” Philip says, when Chase shifts back into the human form that he’s finding more and more preferable to Proto-Zero’s, “it’s been a tremendous help to me. It’s--the many varieties of personhood that exist within the modern world are terribly compelling, but so few people are willing to speak about it at any length. Which I understand, but it does make study difficult.”
Chase nods. “I understand.” Beat. “You say personhood, but not humanity?”
“They’re hardly synonymous. Like circles and ovals. Every human is a person, but not every person is human. I haven’t always fit the precise definition of human myself.” Philip’s hand stills in the middle of a furious bout of note-taking, his face taking on a faraway look that Chase is learning to recognize. “What was death like for you? If you don’t mind my asking. Personally, I find the memory very difficult to grasp. Like a dream. I know that it happened, but when I reach for it, it slips out of my fingers.”
“It was...” It takes some time to find the way to phrase the answer. “Silent. And then when it ceased to be silent, it was because I was alive again.”
Philip nods, and takes more notes, and says, “Thank you for sharing that, I appreciate it. It’s...most people I know have never died. It’s difficult to explain to them.” The notebook snaps shut suddenly, Philip’s pen slides into its spiral binding right before it’s set aside. “Now. Is there anything I can do to help you?”
Chase blinks, slowly, several times, before replying. “How do you mean?”
“You. And your fellow Roidmudes. This is not an easy world to live in, especially when one’s personhood is treated as a subject for debate instead of a given. I would like--I hope that you’ll consider me a friend. I would like you to be my friend. And as a friend I would like to offer you and the other Roidmudes whatever help I can in establishing yourselves as people deserving of independent lives.” Philip grins at him. “At the very least I’m wonderful at winning debates.”
When Philip and Chase emerge from the garage, the first thing they see is Heart sitting in one of the front room chairs with an elderly gray cat asleep on his legs, and a much younger marmalade cat draped around his neck like an ungainly scarf. His red coat is nowhere in sight; he is, instead, wearing a black three-piece suit, a vividly red shirt, and a burgundy necktie with a heart-shaped pin in it. He's also engrossed in a book in English, although when they enter the room he glances up and says, cheerfully, "Hello."
"Good afternoon, Mr. Heart, I see Shoutaro's actually succeeded in his quest to get someone else to like Windscale as much as he does, you look very good. Are you enjoying Raymond Chandler? Shoutaro, is that Mrs. Mizuishi's kitten on our friend's shoulders? Where was he this time? Mrs. Mizuishi is a bit absent-minded," Philip says to Chase, "Chobi frequently wanders off when she's looking elsewhere."
"Yes, she called when we were on our way back from the bookstore." Shoutaro's sitting at the desk, in the middle of typing what looks like a list. "He'd only gotten up a tree, Heart helped me get him down. Mrs. Mizuishi’s coming to pick him up soon."
"And I see he has Mick's approval as well."
The gray cat opens one eye and gives Philip an unamused look, as if to say, “Yeah? What are you going to do about it?” only to begin purring when Heart absently reaches down to scratch his ears.
Chase sits down next to Heart while Philip goes over to speak to Shoutaro and is immediately investigated by the orange cat, who sniffs at his ear briefly and then gets up and hops from Heart’s shoulders to his. “What are you reading?”
“A collection of detective stories. Hidari Shoutaro gave it to me. He’s making me a list of movies that I might enjoy, I think I like detectives.” Heart leans slightly so that his arm brushes Chase’s. “It’s nice to have made a new friend. I hope the questioning wasn’t too intrusive?”
After a moment’s consideration, Chase says, “No. It was an enjoyable conversation.” He reaches up offer the orange cat his hand to smell. “I think it would be safe to say that Philip is a friend as well.”
Heart breaks into a smile. “That’s wonderful! I’m very glad to hear it.”
“However, I think we are expected to return to the city shortly.”
“Right, yes, I suppose we are.”
Over at the desk, Shoutaro pulls the paper out of his typewriter, blows on it to make sure that the ink is dry, and then folds it up and tucks it into an envelope. “Here, Heart, I’ve got that list for you. And my email address is at the bottom, please let me know which one you like best, you have no idea how long it’s taken me to find someone else who’d want to watch any of this stuff. I mean, Philip watches them with me, but other than that.”
Philip laughs quietly. “I do enjoy them, partner, I’m just not as passionate about them as you are.”
Heart carefully moves Mick onto the coffee table and stands up, reaching for a black hat with a red band that Chase hadn’t previously noticed hanging off the back of his chair. Chase, similarly, has to untangle himself from the orange cat, which objects strenuously to being moved and then promptly falls asleep in his chair as soon as he’s on his feet.
“I hope you’ll visit again,” Philip says as they’re shaking hands, “for non-research purposes, of course.”
Chase nods. “I would like that.”
Next to him, Heart tucks the envelope from Shoutaro into his suit jacket and says, “Maybe we can bring Brain along next time, I think they’d get along.”
They head out the door as a group, Shoutaro saying, “You’re going to email me, right, I need to know whether you like Spade or Marlowe better.”
“Of course, although I can tell you right now that just from the reading I’ve already done I like Marlowe quite a lot.”
One more round of handshakes as they all stand next to Chase’s motorcycle, and the last thing Philip says to Chase is, “Thank you again, so much. It was a pleasure to meet you. It’s wonderful to have new friends.”
Chase nods, says, “Likewise,” and resolves to visit again as soon as it’s feasible.